We decided to concentrate first on Malawi because it is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The country is politically stable, enjoys religious tolerance and puts a high premium on education. Malawi’s economy is predominately agricultural but the country depends on substantial economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank and individual donor nations. The greatest crisis facing Malawi is poverty -74% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day and only 50% of women are literate.
The Sub-Saharan country achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and has a democratic republic form of government. It is one of the smallest African countries, with a population of approximately 14 million, most of whom live in rural areas. English is widely spoken and taught in schools. We started the program there in 2006.
Zimbabwe gained independence from the UK in 1980. The country is much larger than Malawi but has roughly the same population size. Inflation is the highest in the world and unemployment hovers at 80%.
In 2011 we started a program to support girls’ education in Zimbabwe. Though education in government-run schools was made free in 1980, school fees have steadily increased and this has hurt the poorest in society, particularly girls. Reportedly 25% of all teachers have left the country and secondary education is no longer free in Zimbabwe. The educational system in Zimbabwe has deteriorated drastically because of the economic meltdown. With limited resources, parents often choose to send boys to school rather than girls. Our students are located in Matabeleland North, several hours from Victoria Falls. There has been little or no funding in this region for vulnerable children’s education so these girls would not go to school if we did not pay their school fees.
In 2017 we plan to expand the program to Zambia.